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Hate-Related Incidents Form Ugly Pattern : Better Reporting Helps, While Fighting Against Ignorance Fosters Understanding

March 12, 1995

The annual reports on "hate-related" incidents issued by the Orange County Human Relations Commission make for dispiriting reading. The one issued this month follows the pattern. The numbers have not changed significantly in the past few years--188 in 1992, 180 in 1993, 182 last year--but the fact that one such incident occurs just about every other day on average is disturbing.

Two years ago, gays and lesbians were the main targets--35 incidents. Last year it was Jews--53 incidents. The incidents involve attacks on people because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic background; some are harassment, but others are crimes.

One of the most notorious crimes last year was the Huntington Beach killing of an African American man, allegedly by two whites who prosecutors said were involved with white supremacists. Both are awaiting trial.

Incidents involving Jews included an Irvine attack in which an assailant cut a cross into the forehead of his target. Swastikas were painted on the walls of a Huntington Beach school.

The Human Relations Commission, which has done much good work in Orange County, rightly is stepping up its efforts to get the various ethnic communities to report hate-related incidents to the proper authorities. The commission's executive director, Rusty Kennedy, said there was "significant underreporting" of incidents by Latinos, Asians and gays and lesbians.

An official of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith said that while there had been an increase in neo-Nazi activity, Jews also are becoming more aware of the need to report attacks. That could be a reason why Jews ranked at the top of the list of 1994 incidents.

The Anti-Defamation League also has announced worthwhile plans to bring a group of Ethiopian Jewish teen-agers, who are black, to visit three ethnically diverse Santa Ana high schools, to show that Jews come in more than one color.

A Times Orange County poll a little more than a year ago showed that friendships across racial lines improved the views members of one group had of another ethnic group. The barriers need to be broken down continually, and the spotlight must be put on hate. The commission reports remind us of work to be done.

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